Law in Contemporary Society

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AubreyKelleySecondEssay 2 - 01 May 2021 - Main.EbenMoglen

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Lawyering is Poetry; vice versa.

-- By AubreyKelley - 15 Apr 2021

I took my Power in my Hand—
And went against the World—
'Twas not so much as David—had—
But I—was twice as bold—

I aimed by Pebble—but Myself
Was all the one that fell—
Was it Goliath—was too large—
Or was myself—too small?
“I took my Power in my Hand” by Emily Dickinson

Introduction

Although the terms are not perfectly synonymous, they perform similar functions. Both lawyering and poetry are interactive with society and humanity, and their effectiveness requires using these interactions to enlighten, to envision, and to empower.

Poetry is Lawyering

Understanding People

The best way to understand people is to understand the world, and to know what is encompassed in that word. That scope of that word covers almost eight billion people spread unevenly across seven continents living in different cultures with access to different privileges and opportunities. Also tucked into the scope of that word is each human as an individual, and, unfortunately, the scope of the individual’s world view is limited to the light she is able to find. The poet seeks light and finds meaning in the interaction between nature and nurture, between choice and circumstance, between devastation and humanity. Her goal is to amplify humanity through word-shaped glasses, and to do so in such a way that leads people to look in her direction to see what is no longer concealed by darkness. She makes truth shine through the mist; she exposes both joy and pain. The law of poetry is that it exists in everything, and the more of everything one understands, the more powerful the verse.

Acquiring Language

It’s more of an absorption. The poet collects words, phrases, synonyms, and antonyms and puts them in her desk drawer, aware that she might not be speaking at the minute but keeping them handy, just in case. The poet then takes these words and tries to make sense of the language so she can communicate what she wants to say. She immerses herself in the understanding of human principles, knowing that learning this language will eventually bear fruit. Although tedious, it gets easier with practice. In time, she is fluent, and the real work can begin.

Making Things Happen Using Words

Words are the paint, the keyboard the canvas, and she contemplates, discerning what artistic arrangement would best say what she wants to say. She thinks about the what colors she needs to use and about how some people hate the color green. She thinks about the shade, asking how bold or subtle it should be. She keeps the sale in mind—who is going to buy a poem. She keeps herself in mind—who is going to buy her poem. After writing and rewriting, it is ready. She publishes and waits. When she looks out the window and things are brighter, she knows she has made a change.

Lawyering is Poetry

Making Things Happen Using Words

Changing things is our power, and our tools are our words. Whether these words be in emails, memos, briefs, opinions, laws, lectures, arguments, or discussions, we harness words and channel them into making things happen. Mastery of words is crucial—there is art in what we say and how we say it. We keep our audience in mind and consider what it will take to make them listen to the words we speak. It is attention to detail, always. It is looking for the right way to frame the picture. It is painting our message in a way that is beauty to the beholder; it is creating Rembrandt via courtroom, via classroom, via keyboard.

Acquiring Language

We begin to acquire the language of the law during our first semester of law school. Fluency in legalese takes time, and it is frustrating and tedious. It makes you wonder if learning the law is worth it, and you question whether you will ever understand. Then, suddenly, you get it, and you pick up words and phrases like picking apples from trees. You start a collection of terminology that you keep in your back pocket, just in case. What you thought to be suffocation was metamorphosis, and what felt like drowning was actually absorption.

Understanding People

Everything comes together, and we prepare ourselves to make change. We see what we want to fix in the world, and we ready our pebbles and slings. It can be daunting to approach the world and all that is encompassed in that word when we seem so small, and our tools similarly inadequate. But what we must remember is that we do not approach the world; we approach people. People are the molecules of our legal system, and the threads of our statutes and laws are composed of those covered by its veil. The law is not words on a paper; it is the breathing bodies of judges and juries. It is how well the prosecutor slept the night before; it is whether or not O’Connor and Brennan get along. To be a lawyer is to understand human behavior, and to have the courage to approach the adversary not with stones and slings, but with strategy and truth. Lawyering is understanding that battles do not have to be won with war, and that Goliath does not have to fall in order for there to be victory. Lawyering is showing up, wielding power, and making changes not to the world but within the world, not to people but within people. The best way to understand the world is to understand people, and to know what is encompassed in that word.

I know not whence I came, 
I know not whither I go 
But the fact stands clear that I am here 
In this world of pleasure and woe. 
And out of the mist and murk, 
Another truth shines plain. 
It is in my power each day and hour 
To add to its joy or its pain.
from “I Am” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox


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